The fall foliage this year in West Virginia’s Allegheny Highlands and Monongahela forest was absolutely amazing, though a bit earlier than usual. Many of the higher areas around Canaan Valley and Dolly Sods were already barren upon our arrival, we were able to find many amazing pockets of color in the lower elevations. We photographed mountain landscapes, bountiful autumn foliage, and beautiful waterfalls, from sunrise to sunset for three full days, breaking only for the occasional omelet or nap.
We were told by many that we had arrived to the area much “past peak” fall foliage, but we concluded that the ideas we have for “near peak,” “peak,” and “past peak” foliage are all a bunch of B.S., because great images can be made in any of these conditions, if you know where and how to look for them. These methods of describing the state of autumn foliage do little to tell one how things are actually looking, because they do not take into account the different species of trees, leaf drop variability on slopes facing different directions, intensity and type of color, or leaf drop in general. Take, for example, this stand of Beech pictured below. In what many would consider “peak” fall foliage conditions, these trees would all still be green. In addition, when “past peak,” many of the streams and waterfalls seem to look best since the majority of leaves have fallen from the trees, coating the wet rocks, and filling the streams and swirling eddies such as in this photo from 2008.
I have quite a soft spot for West Virginia, as I spent quite a bit of time photographing there as I was just getting beginning with landscape photography. There is no other place in the Mid-Atlantic where mountains, sky, forests, and water come together in a truly “wild” place, and that is just what makes it so special. Many would argue that the autumn foliage in West Virginia can rival that of New England, and I agree, for the most part. I just wish I could have stayed longer. I miss it already, but there’s no time for that. I just got to North Carolina and it’s off to the desert in just a few days.